College and Career Plaza Staff Committed to Mentorship

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College and Career Plaza Staff Committed to Mentorship

Jimmy Nava Flores

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College and Career Plaza is committed to providing timely, tailored, and cutting-edge college and career mentorship to all Santa Fe High School students and their families. Although the college and career search process kicks into high gear during 11th and 12th grades, the staff believes it is never too early to begin this process, so they welcome ninth- and tenth-graders as well.

CCP is staffed collaboratively by James Stake, Blanca Ortiz, and Niki McKay. Ms. Ortiz is a first-generation high school graduate (Capital High School, 2015) and college graduate (Earlham College, 2019). “She is passionate about providing college and career mentoring to students with similar backgrounds,” Mr. Stake said.

Ms. McKay is the Santa Fe Community College Dual Credit Specialist. She is also an experienced FAFSA/financial aid advisor and facilitates workshops at CCP.

Prior to working with CCP, Mr. Stake served as program coordinator for the New Mexico Simon Scholars Program from 2014 to 2018. There, he “guided academically well-prepared first-generation college-bound students toward their higher education aspirations,” he said. Mr. Stake, who has an academic background in medicine and neurobiology, is currently in graduate school for counseling psychology.

Mr. Stake meets with students to help them reach their goals by using many resources and contacts so they can be successful in their next steps after high school. He helps individual students with accessing scholarship opportunities and writing their college essays. Although this sounds like it’s mostly meant for seniors, College Plaza is also here to help younger students with future careers and the steps they have to take to get there.

The College Career Plaza staff believes it is important to meet with freshmen and sophomores to get them to understand the importance of taking dual credit classes and to try to challenge themselves with honors and AP classes. He also encourages younger students to meet all their graduation requirements early so they can have a résumé ready for college or job interviews.

According to Mr. Stake, moving forward, the CCP hopes to expand their presence in the SFHS community in three key ways: nurture ongoing college and career 1:1 mentoring relationships with students, preferably starting early in HS and continuing up through graduation; expand their presence in classrooms, especially during Advisory, through classroom visits and online content; and consistently provide outstanding and timely lunchtime workshops on relevant topics, facilitated by expert collaborators and community partners

Mr. Stake said the CCP staff are “committed to keeping our doors open five days a week throughout the school year.” (See hours below.) He said the staff believes that consistency is crucial to building trust relationships, and that trust is a key element in college and career mentorship.

Just this semester, Mr. Stake has brought close to 30 colleges, universities and scholarship providers to visit the school and is hoping to have students spread the word about CCP and its opportunities for students.

Last month, CCP staff organized a college application drive where there was a wide selection of colleges for seniors to apply to during school hours in the auxiliary gym. They also organized FAFSA Night, when seniors were invited to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid at the Higher Education Center, with help from SFCC representatives.

Staff hours
James Stake: Mon.-Thurs., 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Blanca Ortiz: Wed., noon – 4 p.m.; Fri., 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Niki McKay: Thurs., 11:45 a.m.-1:45 p.m.